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Government Cloud: Article

What is Enterprise Cloud Computing?

Enterprise Cloud Computing gives the CIO IT infrastructure that is faster, better, cheaper, and safer

Jill Tummler Singer on Ulitzer

What is enterprise cloud computing? Simply stated, it’s a behind-the-firewalls use of commercial, Internet-based cloud technologies specifically focused on one company’s or one business environment’s computing needs. Enterprise cloud computing is a controlled, internal place that offers the rapid and flexible provisioning of compute power, storage, software, and security services to meet your mission’s demands.

It combines the processes of a best in class ITIL organization with the agility of managed, global infrastructure to make your IT faster, better, cheaper, and safer. Enterprise cloud computing gives your business agility, survivability, sustainability, and security.

I believe commercial solutions-whether its Google's cloud or Amazon's web services-may be perfect for many companies. But, some corporations and government agencies are not going to be comfortable outsourcing their information and services to the internet-based cloud. For agencies like mine, and for many corporations, keeping such precious gems in our own possession is a foregone conclusion.

Hence, enterprise cloud computing is your answer.

As a CIO, you are under enormous pressure. A recent global study by IBM summarized these pressure points.

First, today's CIO must be able to use technology to drive a company's innovation. He needs to understand the plans and goals of the agency and introduce IT that will achieve those goals-working with the business. This is certainly not IT for IT's sake; it is IT for the company's sake. It is the integration of IT and business for maximum corporate leverage and competitiveness. To achieve the innovation the company needs, today's CIO must increase the flexibility and efficiency of infrastructure to support business changes and provide a foundation for new IT insertion.

Second, today's CIO must be a savvy value creator. She must be able to produce or increase profit from existing company property. This may be connecting the enterprise's data in new ways to give new insights and improve decisions. Or, it may be improving IT's overall understanding of the business that allows IT to bring forth new technologies to shift the business forward. The creation of value for today's CIO cannot come with increased expense. Today's CIO must be thrifty and manage internal costs to free dollars to create innovation and value. Standardizing and centralizing infrastructure can keep IT costs to a minimum.

Finally, the IBM study noted that today's CIO is a true partner with other executives in the organization. His job is to listen to other business leaders in the company and work with them collaboratively to improve the competitiveness of the business. Delivering innovative solutions usually requires cultural change in the business; a strong partnership between the CIO and the business leader is needed to push that cultural change through. It is not enough, however, for the CIO to focus outside of the IT department. Today's CIO must also look inward and inspire her own organization to excellence in innovation, service provisioning, applications development, security, and other core infrastructure disciplines while also inspiring her IT employees to improve their business acumen.

I highlight this IBM study as it demonstrates the mounting pressures facing CIOs and IT departments. There's no new money; yet IT must produce transformations for the business. OpEx is increasing as a percent of overall IT spend--further eating away at the CIO's ability to free funds for new developments. I believe Enterprise Cloud Computing is a key strategy that allows the CIO to plot a path forward that reduces operating costs and also delivers a competitive advantage for the business. Enterprise Cloud Computing gives the CIO IT infrastructure that is faster, better, cheaper, and safer.

Let's talk about these four features. While I stated them rather simply-faster, better, cheaper, and safer-each one is an imperative from an IT perspective and all CIOs must deliver in each area. There are many technologies and business processes that support the faster, better, cheaper, and safer goals. I don't want anyone to leave with the impression that Enterprise Cloud Computing is the only thing that can do it. For example, implementing sound configuration and change management processes in your IT department on top of any enterprise technology architecture will result in improvements in speed, availability, cost, and security. Driving your applications organization to centers of excellence--for services, analytics, or information extraction will deliver improvements. Or demanding strict standards in data and information management will help in all areas. However, I do believe Enterprise Cloud Computing offers a great return on investment and makes it a premier strategy for the CIO to achieve business value while reducing costs and complexity. How does Enterprise Cloud Computing improve the agility, sustainability, survivability, and security of IT so IT returns value to mission? Let's go through a few examples.

The author keynoting 1st Annual Government IT Conference & Expo, October 6, 2009 - held in Washington DC at the Regency Hyatt on Capitol Hill

Every CIO needs the ability to quickly and rapidly provision new infrastructure to support business needs. Think of the likely scenarios facing your business.

  • If you're FEMA, you need rapid ability to provision IT services for national emergency response.
  • If you're the Department of State, you need to be able to respond to terrorist bombings or earthquakes to provide immediate US citizen services and diplomatic support to host nations.
  • Similarly, if you're H&R Block and gearing up for tax season, you need to grow your services quickly and just in time to meet consumer surge-for those few months of the year but not for the whole year.
  • If you're Burger King and preparing for a mass marking campaign to promote "Transformers," you want fast capacity for the marketing hype without long-term excess.
  • Or, if you're Toys R Us, you want your web services to safely and rapidly respond to the holiday crunch and then return to off-season levels at an affordable price.

Cloud computing makes all of this possible through inexpensive, commodity-based components that you can daisy chain together with a few clicks on the keyboard. You need temporary storage or fast dedication of storage to a new effort; the storage cloud can do that. If you need compute power, you can call up a dozen new servers to improve processing time and then decommission those servers when your peak has subsided. Or, if you need on-demand security services to process sensitive data, Cloud Computing can give you a private enclave with a full suite of security services in a matter of minutes and not months.

Let's talk more about what Enterprise Cloud Computing is and how it can easily fit into your technology strategy.

As I noted in the beginning, Enterprise Cloud Computing is behind the firewall and contained within a business enterprise (one company, one agency, or one supply chain, for example). A true cloud environment contains many layers and extends beyond the compute platform. To gain early advantage in Enterprise Cloud Computing, you need at least a storage cloud and a compute/processing cloud sitting on top of your network cloud. However, this requires each cloud user to bring database, application, web services, and security services with them. You'll achieve goodness in this scenario but you may not actually achieve faster, better, cheaper, and safer overall IT.

A robust Enterprise Cloud Computing environment will have storage, compute, database, application, and maybe additional layers. It will support rapid stand-up of development and test environments to reduce time to market by applications developers. It will include standard data management approaches and flexible storage schemes to allow broad re-use of corporate data without storing the data in multiple locations. It should have security as a service that dictates a common, consistent approach to assuring the identity, access, and audit of individuals and systems. Finally, a robust Enterprise Cloud will be built on a solid foundation of common processes, management, and governance principles to keep the cloud optimized.

If I look back at CIA's technology strategy for the past few years, we were headed to an Enterprise Cloud all along, even if we didn't call it that.

Like all of you, we are moving from point-to-point networks to private MPLS clouds to gain efficiency, redundancy, and peak performance.

Virtualized servers were also a core strategy for CIA. Limitations on power, space, and cooling in our data centers meant adding more physical servers was not a long-term option. We needed to reduce our number of physical servers, increase our overall computing power, and do it in a smaller square foot of real estate. I suspect many of you have faced the same M&E demands. If you've only virtualized your servers, you've already started down the Enterprise Cloud Computing path and you can claim some early success! Abstracting the operating system and software from the hardware on which it runs is a foundation upon which cloud computing is built.

In the storage area, we've all used storage area networks and network-attached storage (SAN and NAS). Combined with storage resource management, this was a precursor for storage clouds. Connecting your storage to your servers has matured in Enterprise Cloud Computing, whereby you can dynamically connect any storage to any server thus allowing corporate re-use of data in a multitude of virtual ways through single physical copies. SAN and NAS were also precursors for dynamic allocation of storage to support expanding and contrasting computationally intense applications. This sort of "rubberband" theory of storage is a fundamental element of the Enterprise Cloud.

A fourth example of how our technology strategy was already headed to cloud is in our applications. We were already on a march to all web-based applications, ideally requiring very thin clients on the opposite end. Building one application to meet many business needs or mashing applications together for new business value is our corporate approach. Not all applications will be built on the software as a service model but we will continue on that path in as much as possible. Underlying our applications is a nearly 7-year old strategy for a services oriented architecture that componentizes key services for security, access administration, search, and so forth. Continued evolution from SOA to Software as a Service increases our cloud success.

And, a fifth example of how our strategy was easily aligned with Enterprise Cloud Computing is management of our enterprise data. We've been focused on an Enterprise Data Layer for several years. Sure, we wanted to minimize our storage waste. But, we really needed confidence that everyone was using the single authoritative source of data and we needed confidence we could resurrect that data in the event of another 9-11. We wanted applications, systems, and users to be served by the data layer rather than build individual, redundant small, data islands. Enterprise Cloud Computing allows us to manage our data corporately while giving the perception of individual stovepipes that operate and respond with high mission performance.

I suspect that most medium- and large-organizations have similar technology plans that also dovetail nicely into Enterprise Cloud Computing. Don't think of the Cloud as a perpendicular technology approach aimed at derailing your current plans. It isn't. Instead, think of the Cloud as an energy booster welded onto the side of your existing plans to get you to your goal state faster through commercial, commodity technologies and approaches.

In summary, there are many IT benefits to the company and benefits to the IT department from Enterprise Cloud Computing. Let's go back to our simple mantra: faster, better, cheaper, safer.

Perhaps the most prolific feature of Cloud Computing is the ability to deliver services faster. The storage, compute, and infrastructure layers of Enterprise Cloud Computing allow you to rapidly increase capacity to respond to peaks in demand. You don't need long-lead times to pre-provision service. You can keep a minimal amount of excess capacity on hand to quickly expand. And, because you are built on commodity platforms, you can get more capacity without lengthy acquisition cycles. You have a new app that needs to stress test for the weekend? Just reassign some processing power to accommodate the load and return the power to the business for Monday morning demands.

Enterprise Cloud Computing also allows IT to be better. When you have just a few copies of your enterprise data and you can stripe those copies around multiple physical data centers, you've improved your disaster recovery posture. Your availability numbers can also soar with Enterprise Cloud Computing. Ready-made redundancy protects from failure and drives your mean-time-between-failure sky high while driving your mean-time-to-repair down to zero. It's also better from a Green IT perspective. Enterprise Cloud Computing still takes power, space, and cooling but it allows you to maximize the capacity in any single powered unit.

This also drives us to a cheaper IT environment. Legacy environments required 30 or 50% utilization rates across suites of physical servers to manage wide ranging deltas in performance. Each physical server was always on and always draining power. With Enterprise Cloud Computing, you can maximize the load on a physical rack while spreading the compute power across virtual servers, thus allowing you to respond to wide-ranging performance demands without adding physical equipment. Enterprise Cloud Computing improves OpEx by forcing rigid adherence to standards thus reducing change management overhead and associated engineering review labor.

Enterprise Cloud Computing also helps IT deliver a safer environment. The standards-base of the cloud reduces the complexity and variety of the infrastructure, allowing you to deploy patches more rapidly across the enterprise. By keeping the cloud inside your firewalls, you can focus your strongest intrusion detection and prevention sensors on your perimeter; thus gaining significant advantage over the most common attack vector-the Internet. By virtualizing storage, you protect against a physical intruder that might be intent on taking your server or disk out of the data center for exploitation. If you take the cloud to the desktop and deliver your office automation through a virtual desktop, you reduce workstation security anomalies and greatly improve edge protection. Finally, as we move to security services in the cloud, you hit a multi-dimensional safety model that extends beyond people and their accesses. The multiple dimensions allow you to make security decisions based on who you are, where you are at that moment, what kind of data or app you want, and what kind of device you have.

Assuming I've convinced you Enterprise Cloud Computing is better for IT, let's focus for a minute on the top 10 reasons why your boss will love Enterprise Cloud Computing.

10. She won't get a big IT bill every time she wants a new application.

9. He can threaten to outsource the whole lot of his IT department and, he may actually be able to do so!

8. She can move her people to lower rent locations without moving a mini-data center with them.

7. It's fun to go in and switch off a random machine in the data center to get people's attention-without actually stopping any work!

6. It's "green." She can turn her server huggers into tree huggers.

5. He never has to hear whining about needing new infrastructure; he can just buy some more capacity every once in a while.

4. She can claim to be a "hypervisor". They're a lot cooler and more powerful than mortal supervisors.

3. When she fires her maniacal, disgruntled employee, one click on security services will keep all of the company's intellectual property safe from damage or exfiltration.

2. He can tell his golf buddies he has his own cloud, and he's not just blowing cigar smoke.

1. Having all of her projects "completed virtually" is way better than having all her projects "virtually complete!

Does all of this really free the infrastructure? Is the title of this talk "Enterprise Cloud Computing: The Infrastructure's Ultimate Revenge" for real? Can I get IT over its reputation as being too slow, too expensive, and too rigid? As the CIO or head of infrastructure, if I walk down this path, can I deliver IT that is faster, better, cheaper, and safer? My unequivocal answer to you is "Yes." You can use Enterprise Cloud Computing as the infrastructure's ultimate revenge. You can turn the conversation away from statements such as:

  • "My business unit was ready but IT was behind schedule."


  • "The infrastructure delivered ahead of schedule and I'm waiting for my business unit to set a date for training."


  • "My business unit could have predicted that but the application used bad data."


  • "I'm sorry boss; we had the right data we just made the wrong prediction."


  • "The application was ready to deliver but the infrastructure wasn't there."


  • "The infrastructure's ready to go whenever your app is."

The Infrastructure's Ultimate Revenge is that it won't be your scape goat any more. Enterprise Cloud Computing done right will take the wait out of applications delivery. As soon as new code is ready to drop, the infrastructure's waiting to take it. If you need a 5000 person test environment for 30-days, the infrastructure can delivery that in a day and give it to you for the month you need it.

The Infrastructure's Ultimate Revenge is an IT commodity that gives your business a perfect inventory model for data storage and compute power. You won't waste money on excess capacity and you won't waste time waiting for new capacity.

Finally, the Infrastructure's Ultimate Revenge means IT is out of your critical path. Delivering you an environment that is faster, better, cheaper, and safer so you can accomplish your business objectives. Enterprise Cloud Computing allows you to cut the ball-and-chain of the past or release the albatross from around your neck. You're no longer stuck with slow, lethargic, antiquated solutions. Enterprise Cloud Computing allows your company to break away, soar, and be successful.

In summary, the Infrastructure's Ultimate Revenge is more than faster, better, cheaper, and safer IT. It "frees your Business to Change Strategically."

More Stories By Jill Tummler Singer

Jill Tummler Singer is CIO for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)- which as part of the 16-member Intelligence Community plays a primary role in achieving information superiority for the U.S. Government and Armed Forces. A DoD agency, the NRO is staffed by DoD and CIA personnel. It is funded through the National Reconnaissance Program, part of the National Foreign Intelligence Program.

Prior to joining the NRO, Singer was Deputy CIO at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where she was responsible for ensuring CIA had the information, technology, and infrastructure necessary to effectively execute its missions. Prior to her appointment as Deputy CIO, she served as the Director of the Diplomatic Telecommunications Service (DTS), United States Department of State, and was responsible for global network services to US foreign missions.

Singer has served in several senior leadership positions within the Federal Government. She was the head of Systems Engineering, Architecture, and Planning for CIA's global infrastructure organization. She served as the Director of Architecture and Implementation for the Intelligence Community CIO and pioneered the technology and management concepts that are the basis for multi-agency secure collaboration. She also served within CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology.

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